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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 00:02 GMT
Adrenaline vials 'muddle doctors'
injection
Adrenaline injections are given after severe allergic reactions
Doctors may be giving the wrong doses of life-saving adrenaline because of confusing labelling, a study suggests.

Adrenaline, which is used to treat emergencies such as asthma attacks, is stored in vials with the amount often expressed as a ratio as well as a dose.

The ratio requires arithmetic to work out how much drug to administer.

In a test, only two of 14 doctors using the ratio were able to give the correct amount, researchers writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine said.

They also took about 1.5 minutes longer than doctors using the dose information to give the injection to the medical mannequin.

Label woes

"The findings might be different if the doctors had to treat a real person," said Dr Daniel Wheeler, who carried out the research at the University of Cambridge. "In reality the labels have ratios and doses, not one or the other.

It is well documented that patients are commonly given the wrong dosage of adrenaline
Dr Daniel Wheeler
University of Cambridge

"However this does give us insight into the problem and a fairly easy solution - expressing drug concentrations exclusively as doses - we believe would improve patient safety."

There have long been concerns about the administration of adrenaline, with studies also raising concerns about the use of pre-loaded injection "pens".

Adrenaline shots are given if a patient has had a serious faint, has choked, or had a severe asthmatic reaction.

SEE ALSO
Anaphylactic shock
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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